RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s Federal Police on Wednesday executed more than two dozen searches and seizure warrants in six states as part of an investigation into a network that allegedly spread defamatory fake news and threats against Supreme Court justices.
The judicial orders targeted allies and supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, and the president’s son Carlos Bolsonaro criticized the operations on his official Twitter account, calling the investigation “unconstitutional, political and ideological.”
Supreme Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes said in his decision that there are indications of a scheme for the the mass dissemination of messages on social networks to damage the image of the highest court, endangering the “independence of judicial power.” He said the network appears to be financed by a group of business leaders close to the government.
People targeted by the raids included Luciano Hang, owner of retailer Havan; Edgar Corona, owner of a chain of gyms; Allan dos Santos, who runs the far-right blog Terçã Livre; Sara Giromini, an activist known as “Sara Winter” on social networks, and 10 others.
“This will be pathetic for the Supreme Court,” dos Santos told reporters outside his home in Brasilia after the raid. “We are no longer living in a democracy.”
Bolsonaro’s backers have often expressed frustration at court rulings limiting the president’s power and denunciations of the justices are common among the small group of pro-Bolsonaro demonstrators who have gathered each weekend in the capital, Brasilia. Bolsonaro himself has joined the demonstrations.
The president has pushed for Brazil’s economy to reopen even as the COVID-19 death toll rises and criticized those who have frustrated his wishes. The Supreme Court ruled in April that governors and mayors have jurisdiction to impose restrictions in spite of Bolsonaro’s wishes.
A video of a Bolsonaro Cabinet meeting from April, made public last week by a Supreme Court justice, showed Education Minister Abraham Weintraub saying he would “throw all those bums in jail, starting with the Supreme Court.”
The investigation into fake news is under seal, overseen by the Supreme Court’s Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who decided on Tuesday that police should take the testimony of Weintraub as part of the investigation.
The operations on Wednesday were in the Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Mato Grosso, Parana and Santa Catarina states as well as Brazil’s Federal District.